How to Take Body Measurements for Clothing

how to take body measurements

There are several reasons why you would want to measure yourself for clothes. When you want to purchase clothes online, or would like to save a trip to the dressing room, it is essential to know your size. 

Perhaps you are a tailor and would like to make alterations for a client, or purchase the correct pattern, or draft one. Measuring yourself for clothing is not difficult, and it is even easier with a friend.

measurements

Taking Body Measurements for Buying Clothes

Nobody goes shopping for clothes without a general idea of what size they wear. Having an accurate knowledge of your size however, does not necessarily mean that you will be able to find consistent sizing across clothing manufacturers. Far from it. Clothing manufacturers all size their clothes according to their own proprietary production standards.

When measuring yourself for purchasing clothes online, or for saving yourself a trip to the dressing room, it is a good idea to look up a manufacturers sizing chart and compare it to your actual size. Measuring yourself for clothes can help you more confidently purchase clothes that fit as well as they can, the first time, saving you time and money.

measure yourself for clothes

Taking Body Measurements for Making Clothes

Whether you have been sewing as a hobby for your whole life, or just picking it up, you will need to measure up before you begin making your garments. The general measurements we depend on when buying clothes have little value here. How to take bust hip and waist measurements are still very important, but they are still very general in terms of producing a well fitting garment.

Some other measurements need to be considered by the dressmaker if she intends to put her signature on a quality garment, and the tailor has a few more!

Women and men are shaped differently, and individuals are shaped differently among themselves. Knowing the differences, and where to measure on the male and female body is really fundamental in this sphere. Hand tailored clothing that looks, lays, and fits exactly as it should, may be one of the primary reasons we learn to sew in the first place.

How to take your own measurements

Getting the perfect fit for your clothes doesn’t have to be complicated. You can measure yourself with a piece of string or ribbon and then measure it with a yardstick.  Most pros agree that If you want the most accurate reading, the best tool for measuring yourself is a soft measuring tape, since it is easier to handle and read.  If you do not have one, there is a printable version available online.  Here are a few measuring tips that apply to women and men, alike.

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  • Before taking any measurements, you should take care that your clothes are close fitting and lightweight. Clothing with stretch could also be worn.  The tape should only be snug to your body as you move and breathe, not tight.
  • Measure yourself in front of a mirror standing straight but naturally, with the tape measure held parallel to the ground. 
  • When measuring your hips, sit down and stand back up to check that your tape isn’t constricting you as you stand up and sit — this will ensure that clothing of that size won’t be too tight.
  • Sticking a finger or two inside the measuring tape can help your garments not come out too snug later, but it is not appropriate for certain measurements, like the neck.

How to Take Measurements for Women’s Clothing

While men and women have some measurements in common, there are some measurements that are specific to a person’s biology. Let’s take a look at all of the measurements you might expect a dressmaker to take.

Bust

When measuring for tops, blouses, or dresses, the bust is fundamental. It is the thirty-six in 36-24-36. You cannot sew a top or dress without this measurement.

  • Stand squarely in front of a mirror
  • Use the mirror to make sure of the placement and that the tape measure is level
  • Wrap the tape measure around your body, at the fullest part of your bust
  • Read and record the measurement
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underbust

Underbust

Underbust is an important measurement for correct bra sizing. The underbust is taken around the body, at the ribcage, just beneath the breasts.

  • While standing in front of a mirror, wrap the tape measure around the body at the ribcage, level at the point directly beneath the breasts.
  • The tape should be just snug enough to breathe.
  • Read the measurement on the exhale.
  • Round the measurement up to the next whole number and record the underbust measurement.

Bra sizing

This does not really qualify as a measurement, but it is being included here because of the importance in selecting the right size bra. If you decide that you have to wear one, it shouldn’t hurt.

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Band Size

Finding the band size is simple. Begin with the underbust measurement. If the underbust measurement is a positive number, you will add 5 inches to it. Add 4 inches to the underbust measurement if it is an even number.

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Cup size

Bra cup size is determined from the difference between the Bust size and the underbust size. The number of inches left over then corresponds to a letter of the alphabet

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Waist

The waist is another measurement that is so important in the context of making clothes, that without it people would be running around half-naked.

waist measurement

Natural Waist Measurement

Your natural waist measurement is the preferred measurement by most manufacturers. The natural waist is below your ribcage, and above your navel.

Lower Waist Measurement

There is a place in fashion for a lower waist measurement. On the body, that place would be the point on the hips where your pants naturally ride.

Hips

Hips are another important measurement. It will be handy when making bottoms and well fit dresses.

  • Stand Squarely in front of a mirror
  • Take care that your tape measure is level
  • Use the tape to measure the hips at the broadest part of the buttocks
  • Read and record the measurement
hip measurement

Crotch Length, Depth, and Height

Crotch measurements are important for a dressmaker so that your pants are not made to be too baggy or too tight. Sometimes you will come across a pair of pants that fit great when you stand up, but when you sit down they are miserable.

Crotch Length

Measuring crotch length is dependent on the waist line. The waistline is between the ribcage and the hip bones, just above the navel.

  • Locate the midpoint in the front and back of the waistline.
  • From a standing position, draw the tape measure between the legs and measure the distance between the two points on the wastiline.
  • Read and record the crotch length

Crotch Depth

Crotch depth measures the distance between the top of your chair to your waist. Like crotch length, the measurement will start off of the center of the waistline, in the back. Unlike most body measurements, crotch depth is taken from a seated position.

  • Ask subject to be seated on an un-upholstered stool or chair
  • Locate, in the center of the back, your subject’s waistline, and measure from that point to the top of the chair.
  • Read and record the crotch depth

Crotch Height

Crotch height is the distance between the crotch point and the floor when a subject is standing straight and comfortably. The crotch point is the point where the four panels come together between the legs.

  • Measure a standing subject.
  • Locate the crotch point and measure straight down to the floor.
  • Read and record the crotch height

Inseam

When making trousers or pants for men or women, the inseam measurement is taken between the ankle and the uppermost part of your inner thigh.

  • Your subject should wear a pair of shoes when measuring your inseam. Heels or flats is an important decision and measurements should be done both ways.
  • Wear a pair of pants that fit correctly and measure the inside seam from the crotch to the ankle.
  • Record the length to the nearest ½ inch
  • In high heels, measure so that the hem falls at the middle of the heel shaft
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    mens measurement

    How to Take Measurements for Men’s Clothing

    Men’s bodies are shaped differently from women’s. Although some measurements are common to both men and women, it is also common for those similar measurements to have different names.  A good example would be chest and bust measurements.  Basically the same measurement, with a different name.

    Chest

    Taking a man’s chest measurement is very similar to measuring for a woman’s bust.  Again, really only the language changes.

    • Stand squarely in front of a mirror
    • Use the mirror to make sure of the placement and that the tape measure is level
    • Tuck the tape measure under the armpits and Wrap it around your body, at the broadest part of your chest
    • Read and record the measurement
    mens chest

    Waist

    As previously mentioned, the waist measurement is essential when it comes to making clothes. Your waist measurement can also tell you something about your health. In addition to helping buy clothes and with sewing, your waist measurement can be a good indicator of heart health, too!

    • Waist measurements should be  taken with a level tape measure wrapped around your middle. The correct place is below the ribs, and just above the belly button.
    • Snug the tape measure around the body. Not too tight.
    • Move around a little, and breathe. You don’t want the tape measure to bind up at all within your range of motion. There should also be no slack in the tape.
    • Take the measurement as you exhale, and record the result

    Seat

    Men have their chests measured instead of their bust. When men are measured, the tailor will commonly measure their seat, while it is still just a man’s hip measurement. Most terms are often used interchangeably, with no offense to one sex or the other. The nomenclature is there though, and it is interesting.

    • Stand Squarely in front of a mirror
    • Take care that your tape measure is level
    • Use the tape to measure the hips at the broadest part of the buttocks
    • Read and record the measurement
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    Crotch Length, Depth, and Height

    For a tailor to make a comfortable pair of pants that are not too baggy or tight, he will need to take some crotch measurements. The measurements are taken the same for men and women.

    Crotch Length

    Measuring crotch length depends on knowing where the waistline is. The waistline is between the ribcage and the hip bones, just above the navel.

    • Locate the midpoint in the front and back of the waistline.
    • From a standing position, draw the tape measure between the legs and measure the distance between the two points on the wastiline.
    • Read and record the crotch length

    Crotch Depth

    Crotch depth is measured from the seated position. The distance between the waist, down to the top of your chair. Like Crotch length, the measurement will start off of the center of the waistline, in the back.

    • Ask subject to be seated on an un-upholstered stool or chair
    • locate, in the center of the back, your subject’s waistline, and measure from that point to the top of the chair.
    • Read and record the crotch depth

    Crotch Height

    The crotch point is between the legs where all of the panels come together. Crotch height is the distance between the crotch point and the floor.

    • Measure a standing subject.
    • Locate the crotch point and measure straight down to the floor.
    • Read and record the crotch height

    Inseam

    Having an accurate inseam measurement ensures that the legs will not be too long on a pair of pants or slacks. It is also a critical measurement for determining where on the ankle the hem line will fall. Wear a pair of shoes when measuring your inseam.

    • If you are measuring for a precise fit, it is best to wear the same shoes that you intend to wear with the pants when they are finished.
    • measure from the crotch, down the inside seam, to the desired length.
    • Record the length to the nearest ½ inch
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    Neck

    When buying men’s shirts in The United States, the size of the shirt is usually taken from the neck measurement. There is a dress shirt neck measurement and a true neck measurement that can come up.

    • From comfortable standing position, wrap the tap measure, level with the Adam’s apple, around the base of the neck
    • This should be recorded as the true neck measurement
    • The dress shirt measurement is the true neck measurement rounded up to the nearest half inch
    • Record the dress shirt measurement

    Shoulder

    The shoulder measurement is required for constructing shirts. Ask a friend for help if you can. It is a difficult measurement to take by yourself.

    • Stand behind the person being measured.
    • Find the tip of the shoulder by locating the spot directly above the armpit.
    • Locate the same spot on the opposite shoulder, and measure the distance.
    • Round up to the nearest inch, and record your shoulder length.
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    Sleeve Length

    Sleeve length is a measurement taken most commonly for jackets. Sleeve length is the measurement from the tip of the shoulder to the wrist. It is tricky to take this measurement yourself. The measurement is rounded up to the nearest inch.

    • The subject should be standing comfortable and straight with their hand on their hip, elbow in a right angle.
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    • Locate the tip of the shoulder, the point directly above the armpit.
    • Measure the sleeve length with the tape measure following the top of the arm from the shoulder, around the elbow, and down to the wrist.
    • Read and record this measurement.

    Center Back Sleeve Length

    When building shirts, a tailor will use this measurement. Center back sleeve length is taken from the center of your back at the base of your neck, to your wrist. It can be figured easily by adding the sleeve length to half of the shoulder length.

    • Stand straight and comfortable, hand on hip, elbow at right angle.
    • Start at the base of the neck and measure to the tip of the shoulder.
    • Continue along the top of the arm, around the elbow, and to the wrist.
    • Read and record your center back sleeve measurement.
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    Thigh, Knee, Calf, and Ankle

    These measurements are straightforward. Except in the cases of tailored clothing, these measurements are often not used.

    • Measurements should be taken at the widest point.
    • Tape measure should be held perpendicular to the leg.
    • The tape measure should not be wrapped too tightly.
    • Read and record each measurement.

    Conclusion

    In this article we have covered many of the most common body measurements for both men’s clothing and women’s clothing.  The differences between measuring for buying clothes, and measuring for making clothes has also been discussed.  Although women’s clothing and men’s clothing share certain measurements, they are not always share the same name.

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